Australians flee flood-hit Queensland

Flooding in north-eastern Australia has forced residents to flee many towns and closed down more than 300 roads.

The floods have caused hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage to sunflower and cotton crops.

Following days of torrential rain, the state government of Queensland has declared several areas as disaster zones.

The state capital, Brisbane, has recorded its wettest December in more than 150 years.

Inland towns such as Theodore, Chinchilla and Dalby are all under water; the nearby town of Warra, and the towns of Alpha and Jericho west of Emerald, have also been declared disaster zones.

"It's exceeded the 1956 flood level that's been used as a benchmark for many many years," said the Banana Shire's acting mayor Maureen Clancy.
Flooded homes

The 350 residents of Theodore are being flown out by helicopter.

"It's a pretty drastic situation," Banana Shire Councillor Vaughn Becker told ABC Radio.

Brent Finlay, president of the farmers' lobby group AgForce, said the floods could cause up to $403m (£261m) in damage to crops.

"It's just devastating. This was going to be the crop that got a lot of farmers back on their feet after the drought," Mr Finlay said.

Further south, in New South Wales, about 175 people who had spent the night in evacuation centres have returned home but 800 people in the towns of Urbenville and Bonalbo are expected to be cut off for another 24 hours.

Meanwhile, police rescued three teenagers who tried to use airbeds to float 30km (20 miles) on floodwaters.

The rain was brought by Cyclone Tasha, which hit the state on Saturday.

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